The Governor’s right hand man

Deputy Governor Mark Capes is a busy man — and it’s been that way ever since he arrived in October.

The 52-year-old career diplomat came to Bermuda just as Dutch businessmen John Deuss was facing extradition and the PLP were about to ditch leader Alex Scott.

Then there was a major counter-terrorism exercise to handle. Shortly after Governor Sir John Vereker went off Island, leaving Mr. Capes in charge to oversee the Remembrance Day ceremonies.

  • New posting: Mark Capes, sworn in as Deputy Governor yesterday. 

  Photo by Glenn Tucker

    New posting: Mark Capes, sworn in as Deputy Governor yesterday. Photo by Glenn Tucker


Deputy Governor Mark Capes is a busy man — and it’s been that way ever since he arrived in October.

The 52-year-old career diplomat came to Bermuda just as Dutch businessmen John Deuss was facing extradition and the PLP were about to ditch leader Alex Scott.

Then there was a major counter-terrorism exercise to handle. Shortly after Governor Sir John Vereker went off Island, leaving Mr. Capes in charge to oversee the Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Not likely to turn into a diplomatic disaster but something which nonetheless needed to be handled right. It was — but it involved a lot of standing.

“I had a knee injury which made that hugely uncomfortable and painful.”

The torn ligament, which he blames on “vigourous dancing” at a party in his old posting of Anguilla, has been fixed thanks to skilful work by King Edward VII Memorial staff.

“After I arrived, all these things were happening very quickly as far as I was concerned. But it was useful to witness these things so early on.”

The posting differs from much of his diplomatic work which has taken him to Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Australisia where his job had been to lobby the host Government to take Britain’s line on major issues of the day.

“Sometimes it can get a little bit mechanical. In the Overseas Territories you have a very different role. It’s very satisfying because you are working with the Government on the issues.

“It’s satisfying here because you can hopefully make a contribution to Bermuda’s progress. I regard myself as working for the best interests of Bermuda.”

But he must also represent Britain. A conflict of interests? Not so, says Mr. Capes.

“We are in a relationship that both sides do their best to make work,” he said.

“At times there will be occasions where the UK’s interests may seem to be at variance with Bermuda’s but in any relationship there are bound to be moments where you have to address these things in a mature way.”

Bermuda is by no means Mr. Capes’ first experience of an overseas territory. He had a stint in Turks and Caicos.

And just before arriving in Bermuda, Mr. Capes had done a four-year spell as Deputy Governor in Anguilla where he was also head of the public service, a member of the Cabinet and ex officio member of the House of Assembly where he would speak about the public service.

“It was challenging but great fun and very rewarding. It was part of my skill development. Indeed Willy Bourne (former Solicitor General and naturalised Bermudian) who has gone down there as Attorney General will be a member of the House.

“There were heated moments in the House of Assembly but I am happy to say they weren’t aimed at me. The whole relationship with politicians there was very good.”

Like any successful diplomat he is very careful with his words for fear of unwittingly causing offence. But thankfully he is more forthcoming on his past experiences — some of which have been hair-raising.

“I had guns pushed to my head in various places,” said Mr. Capes in an understated way.

In Jordan he was walking one home one warm night when he was jumped by a man with a handgun who pointed it had his head.

Thankfully the lurker was actually a plain-clothes security man who let the alarmed Mr. Capes on his way once he was satisfied he wasn’t up to any mischief.

In Nigeria in 1983 he was moments from being machined gunned. After clearing himself through a Police check-point he returned ten minutes later through the same cordon.

“The same people were there so I slowed down, didn’t stop, but waved. At which point the people on duty went into the crouched position and started pointing their machine guns.

“Fortunately, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that and stopped before they fired.”

He cites Nigeria as his most difficult posting where he had to work through two military coups.

To make matters worse there was a huge row when Britain thwarted the illegal extradition of a former transport minister wanted in Nigeria on corruption charges.

“He was abducted in London and put in a crate at Stansted airport to be taken back to the military Government.”

Thankfully a tip-off saved the man from an extremely uncomfortable journey and an uncertain fate but the fall-out saw the expulsion of the British High Commissioner.

“There was a curfew and a lot of people I had been working with in the Nigerian Government were arrested and put in prison.”

He thinks most were released. “But it was a difficult time, with troops on the streets. No one quite knew what was going to happen. It was exciting and interesting at the same time.”

He was also in Portugal in 1975 when an attempted coup was launched in the aftermath of the peaceful overthrow of the right-wing dictatorship.

Mr. Capes who confessed he has always wanted a job with travel, initially thought about the Navy before settling on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The life of a roving diplomat can be hard on friends and family admits the father of two but each new posting is an opportunity to meet new people.

He expects to be in Bermuda for three to four years but after the drama of other postings he might be forgiven for finding the assignment a little staid.

Not so, said Mr. Capes.

“Bermuda is far from boring. It’s very busy in terms of the job and it’s very busy in its society. People are very involved in their community. “You meet people who are supposed to be retired who are probably working as hard as anyone else for this or that organisation.”

So far he has found Bermudians are naturally warm and welcoming people and he is full of praise for the Island.

“It’s a very busy, vibrant community — very modern. People are well travelled, Bermudians have often worked or educated themselves abroad.

“They are well informed which makes it an interesting society to live in.”

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